I would like to welcome the newest member of our writing team, Micah Parry. In their first post with us, they tell us about their experience living with psychotic depression. Thanks for sharing with us, Micah!
Trigger warnings: suicide, paranoid delusions, depression episodes, psychological abuse
I am not sure where to start. There is so little I remember. I’m not even certain of my exact diagnosis now. Is it psychotic depression or schizoaffective disorder? Or something else? It doesn’t really matter.
It all started when I got diagnosed with major depression at age 16. No, wait, it didn’t start there at all. It really started when my brother-in-law died in a car accident a few months after he married my sister, shortly before my 13th birthday. I remember very little from before that point, since it all seems so alien to me. When he died, my sister changed. She went from a loving sister to a badly injured animal, lashing out at all who came near her, particularly me. I’m sure she didn’t mean to hurt anybody, but she hurt me.
I do not remember precisely what she did, other than that it fell under the category of psychological abuse. But I don’t want to call it abuse. Or even bullying. Because she’s still my sister. All I know is it lasted years. During those years, I developed depression that gradually got worse, the longer I went undiagnosed.
At some point, I met someone in my head. At first, I could relate to this man. He seemed to understand me. He was there for me when my family wasn’t. He listened to me.
Then, he started telling me things about the people around me. Not just my family, but classmates. That I couldn’t trust them. That I needed to kill them before they killed me. Naturally, this terrified me, so I came up with plans to kill the both of us. These plans ranged from old-fashioned methods like hanging myself, to water intoxication, even to creating cyanide gas from common household items like charcoal and window cleaner.
Out of these plans, the one that I attempted multiple times was dehydration. In theory, it would be almost impossible for anybody to detect before it was too late. It also didn’t require as much persuasion as other methods did, since it would be a death drawn out over one week, rather than my life ending in an instant.
In practice, the longest I lasted trying this was three days. One thing I did not account for is that my willpower would weaken the longer I went without water. As my suicide attempts failed without anybody noticing what I was doing, the man became more and more convincing, to the point that I could no longer distinguish between his thoughts and mine. After all, I was not like the other kids. I was autistic. I never felt like a woman. I had secrets they didn’t. They probably hated me and wanted me dead.
At some point, one of my teachers noticed I had problems. Not knowing what else to do, she referred me to a high school guidance counselor. I don’t blame her at all, given that it’s reasonable to expect a guidance counselor to be able to handle the problems she knew I had. Unfortunately, all the counselor did was excaberate the problems I was having at home by sending DFCS over. When that didn’t work, all she did was blame me for having low grades.
That pushed me over the edge. I admitted to a friend that I had been suicidal, and that I wanted to kill people. She became terrified for me. She showed my email to her mother. I don’t blame her, either. Her mother called the school. I don’t blame her. The school pulled me out of class and made me sit for hours, while they called the police and deliberated on what to do with me.
Finally, the police brought me in to see my family. My parents cried. My sister said rude things that made the one officer that knew me mad. The cops eventually brought me out of the school covertly and into the squad car. They drove me to the hospital, with my parents and sister following them. I waited for more agonizing hours in the hospital, as my parents cried more and my sister ranted about having to miss her finals. At some point, a woman came in and asked me questions. Then, I waited more.
After all of that, a security guard came to bring me to a psych ward. I spent a week at the psych ward. It was there I was finally diagnosed with depression. I also met other kids who were like me, kids I could share secrets with. I got put on meds, too. Prozac and clonidine. The latter had the nasty effect of dropping my already-low blood pressure.
After I was released from the hospital, I got taken off the clonidine and set up with a psychiatrist and therapist. In the months to follow, the man in my head gradually began to disappear. The school never let me back in, but a different school in the same system accepted me. Though it was no easy task, I eventually graduated high school. I was going to get into college. Things were looking good for me.
Then, I went to the dorm. I found that I did not have the skills to live on my own. I could not keep myself fed adequately. I could not remember to take my meds every day. I didn’t shower often enough. I fell behind on my school work. I eventually had another depressive episode. Fortunately, the man did not come back at that point. However, the disability office had to call me over and make me ask my psychiatrist for a higher dose of my Prozac.
When I was home for Christmas, I was a mess. I lost weight and could see my own ribs. I was suddenly having trouble with orthostatic hypotension. My mom actually took me to a neurologist because she thought I had a seizure. Despite all that, I still went away the next semester. I still had the same problems, minus the depression episode, but I managed to somehow get a year’s worth of credits under my belt.
The next year, my mother insisted that I stay at home and attend a nearby college. So I did. Fortunately, my sister had long since moved out of the house. My first semester at that college, I kept getting further and further behind in my classes. I eventually stopped logging in my online classes, fearing what I would find if I did. I also had trouble with my physics class, so I asked for help. I broke down and panicked during one of those help sessions, and the teachers listened to me tell them that I was so hopelessly behind that I could never catch up. They encouraged me to take a break and drop the classes, so I dropped everything except fencing. My mother was furious with me, so I stayed at my dad’s apartment until she wanted me back. Fencing was the only thing that kept me sane that semester.
Despite my troubles, I attempted another semester. Early on in the semester, I got paranoid. I feared that people in paintings wanted to kill me, which was a major problem since I was taking an art appreciation class. I thought some old woman who just glanced at me briefly in the dentist’s office wanted to kill me. The night before I went to the disability office to inform them of these delusions, the man came back. He was outside my mind. He was at my door, in shadow. He spoke to me, reminding me of life with him. I tried telling him to go away, and I tried ignoring him, but nothing worked. I was stuck waiting until the morning arrived.
The disability office and I knew each other pretty well at this point. The woman who I usually saw listened to me and escorted me to the counseling office. The counselor I met there was a rather interesting new age-y woman. She listened to me, offered me help to deal with spirits, and gave me some tea, while the office called my mother. I half-thought the woman was just playing along with my delusions, but I did like her a lot more than I liked that high school counselor.
My mother was pretty annoyed, but she took me to my psychiatrist. At the psychiatrist’s office, I thought a bird in one of his paintings was going to fly out and attack me. The psychiatrist gave me Abilify and told me it would take two weeks to take effect. He also advised me to drop my classes. One week after that, the paranoia was gone, but the delusions were still somewhat there. This had the interesting effect of essentially bringing a Chinese restaurant to life. The painting of a woman offered me tea. A fish swam. A squirrel griped about being forced to hold a sign. Eventually, the Abilify took full effect, at the cost of causing me to gain weight.
And now, here I am, unemployed and a college dropout. I still have issues keeping myself taken care of, though it does help that I have my parents to monitor me. I’ve been switched off the Abilify in favor of Saphris, in the hopes it won’t cause me to gain weight. The depression is still in issue, because it’s hard not to feel hopeless at this point, but the man has not come back. Now, I’m looking more into the LGBTQ community in an effort to figure out who I am, and in a few days, I will hopefully be volunteering at a no-kill animal shelter.